Lesbian Refugees Escaping the Homophobic and Transphobic Policies of Uganda
Nakafeero Swabulah is an activist leader advocating for support for vulnerable lesbians and children in Uganda and Kenya. Nakafeero is currently living in the Kenya Kakuma refugee camp. We present her story and some of the political and cultural context.
The Kenya Kakuma refugee camp
The camp, which is located in the north-west corner of Kenya, consists of four parts (Kakuma I-IV), and is managed by the Kenyan government and the Kenyan Department of Refugee Affairs in collaboration with the UNHCR.
New arrivals normally receive one piece of reinforced plastic 4 by 5 meters with which to construct their shelter. As Nakafeero will explain below, this is not a safe environment.
Escaping from homophobia in Uganda
Nakafeero has escaped from Uganda, a country where the government is doing everything in its power to scapegoat and persecute LGBTQ people.
Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, even if a 2016 court ruling found the 2014 Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act invalid on procedural grounds.
Ugandan Members of Parliament have recently reintroduced an anti-LGBTQ bill. Homosexuality is described a “cancer”.
The parliament is currently investigating what it calls “the festering of homosexual activities” in schools. This is a classic example of homophobic and transphobic hysteria, where the culture stigmatizes queer people, leading people to try to “protect” kids from gay people, leading to more oppression.
The idea is that kids are lured into becoming queer, arguments similar to the ones presented by right wing extremists and TERFs in Europe and North America. This vicious circle is particularly strong in a country like Uganda, partly because the family structure plays such an important role in peoples’ lives.
Nakafeero Swabulah has sent us the following report from the Kenya Kakuma refugee camp:
Ironically, the anti-LGBTQ activists in Uganda claim that the acceptance of gay and trans people is a “foreign” Western idea. The fact is that it is the homophobia and transphobia that has been imported from the colonial powers of the past. Homosexual relations were accepted and commonplace in pre-colonial Ugandan society.
Living as a lesbian refugee in a camp in Kenya
By Nakafeero Swabulah
Kenya Kakuma refugee camp it’s located in Kenya North Western Tulucana county. It has over 2000 LGBTQ refugees passing through, due to the homophobic situation and the many challenges found here and in nearby countries.
I would like to tell you about my situation and experience.
As a young lesbian I moved from my mother country Uganda because I was facing a lot of invalidation. Some even wanted to slaughter me like a goat because am a lesbian.
I am not willing to change what and who I am, even if that had been possible (which it is not).
The Ugandan president does not accept lesbians, gays or transgender people. My mother and my sister were both killed in our home by local people because they thought that was inside the house. In Uganda lesbians are seen as devils right now. I have no one who can help me, so I decided to come to Kenya.
People from Uganda are still looking for me and others like me. I thought that I would be safe in Kenya, but the situation right now is not good. This is why I want to seek asylum elsewhere.
This photo shows you where we sleep in the camp. The authorities have not provided shelters where we can at least sleep safely.
At night we have been attacked by homophobic people. There are dangerous insects such as snakes and scorpions.
In the camp we are given one kilogram of millet, one of sorghum, one kilogram of maize and one cup of cookies oil per month. This isn’t enough for a week.
Kakuma is not a safe place for LGBTQ people. We need help.
Nakafeero Swabulah and Giulia Sarro (photo above) are organising a fundraiser campaign to pay for food and sanitary pads for the lesbian refugees in the camp.
Photos provided by Nakafeero.